Exhibition: REMINDER – Embroidered Visions – Photographs of Central Asia and the Middle East by Sheila Paine

pitt-rivers-embroidered-visions

Exhibition dates: 1 November 2016 – 30 April 2017

This is a reminder that this exhibition will be open only until the end of this month, and also that a book of the same name is now available (since 25 January), priced at £10. You can find it in the PRM shop or you can purchase it online here.

This exhibition presents a selection of photographs taken by textile expert Sheila Paine during her travels in Central Asia and the Middle East in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. The images have been chosen both to demonstrate the extent of Paine’s travelling, which has culminated in books on embroidery and other subjects, and to reveal her eye for colours and textures also evident elsewhere in her research. Photographs of Central Asia were taken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and the trading city of Kashgar in western China. Scenes from the Middle East include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and, in particular, Yemen. A video screen also shows highlights of a travel documentary presented by Sheila Paine in Yemen, originally broadcast in 1996.

The photographs have been taken from assorted vantage points, sometimes from the top of a bus while travelling between towns, at other times as more intimate portraits of people encountered. Clothing depicted ranges from plain felted cloaks to elaborately embroidered Turkmen tunics. Other photographs show the material processes behind different types of textile, from spinning wool and winding silver thread, to the manufacture of fur hats and pompom horse-trappings.

The social significance of embroidery has been central to Sheila Paine’s research. This has included seeking out and photographing makers, tracking how textiles and designs migrate across distances, and understanding the meaning, especially protective amuletic functions, applied to many of the motifs. Her published travel trilogy – comprising The Afghan Amulet (1994), The Golden Horde (1997) and The Linen Goddess (2003) – was written about the journeys featured in this exhibition’s photographs, and documents her search for the origins of a triangular amuletic motif that takes her from the Hindu Kush to North Africa. Her interest in the power of such symbols and wearable talismans also resulted in the 2004 book Amulets: A World of Secret Powers, Charms and Magic. Travelling extensively since the mid-1980s, Paine acquired numerous textiles and amulets in the course of this work, many of which are now held in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, alongside her collection of over three thousand photographs generously donated since 2012.

For more information, visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

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Exhibition: Colors of the Oasis – Central Asian Ikats

Exhibition dates: 12 March – 4 June 2017

Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats showcases nearly fifty ikat robes and panels from the renowned Murad Megalli Collection of the Textile Museum in Washington DC.

These bold garments were mainstays of cosmopolitan oasis culture in the nineteenth century, worn by inhabitants of different classes and religions throughout crowded marketplaces, private homes, centres of worship and ceremonial places. The ikat textiles on display – including robes for men and women, dresses, trousers and hangings – feature eye-catching designs in dazzling colours.

Supplementing the ikats are historical photographs and didactic materials about the tradition of their creation. The textiles were originally produced in the 1800s in weaving centres across Uzbekistan, including Bukhara, Samarkand and the Fergana Valley.

Additionally, special installations of ikat textiles from India, Japan and Central Asia – on view in the museum’s permanent galleries in the Law Building – demonstrate ikat traditions from around the globe.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA.

Exhibition: Embroidered Visions – Photographs of Central Asia and the Middle East by Sheila Paine

pitt-rivers-embroidered-visions

Exhibition dates: 1 November 2016 – 30 April 2017

This exhibition presents a selection of photographs taken by textile expert Sheila Paine during her travels in Central Asia and the Middle East in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. The images have been chosen both to demonstrate the extent of Paine’s travelling, which has culminated in books on embroidery and other subjects, and to reveal her eye for colours and textures also evident elsewhere in her research. Photographs of Central Asia were taken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and the trading city of Kashgar in western China. Scenes from the Middle East include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and, in particular, Yemen. A video screen also shows highlights of a travel documentary presented by Sheila Paine in Yemen, originally broadcast in 1996.

The photographs have been taken from assorted vantage points, sometimes from the top of a bus while travelling between towns, at other times as more intimate portraits of people encountered. Clothing depicted ranges from plain felted cloaks to elaborately embroidered Turkmen tunics. Other photographs show the material processes behind different types of textile, from spinning wool and winding silver thread, to the manufacture of fur hats and pompom horse-trappings.

The social significance of embroidery has been central to Sheila Paine’s research. This has included seeking out and photographing makers, tracking how textiles and designs migrate across distances, and understanding the meaning, especially protective amuletic functions, applied to many of the motifs. Her published travel trilogy – comprising The Afghan Amulet (1994), The Golden Horde (1997) and The Linen Goddess (2003) – was written about the journeys featured in this exhibition’s photographs, and documents her search for the origins of a triangular amuletic motif that takes her from the Hindu Kush to North Africa. Her interest in the power of such symbols and wearable talismans also resulted in the 2004 book Amulets: A World of Secret Powers, Charms and Magic. Travelling extensively since the mid-1980s, Paine acquired numerous textiles and amulets in the course of this work, many of which are now held in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, alongside her collection of over three thousand photographs generously donated since 2012.

For more information, visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Exhibition: Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams

brunei-gallery-embroidered-tales-and-woven-dreams

Exhibition dates: 19 January – 25 March 2017

The exhibition Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams is a colour-coded social history of the vast and geographically varied landscape known as the Silk Road (or originally the ‘Seidenstrasse’, a name given to this road by the German explorer Richthofen), which stretches from Central Asia to Western Europe. Its regional history will be explored through the embroidered tales and woven textiles of the communities who lived north and south of this ancient trade corridor across Asia.

The textiles on display have recorded a wonderful vernacular art, as embroidered tales, told by women storytellers, who were guardians of their customs and traditions for their individual tribes, castes and communities.

This exhibition, with a series of related lectures by internationally renowned lecturers, will examine the immensely rich, culturally fascinating identity of the Central Asian, Middle Eastern and South Asian landscapes, through the heritage of their embroidered textiles and costumes. It is a rich seam of historical material, meticulously embroidered and woven.

While the Silk Road, as a concept, refers to an area that underwent a thousand years of turbulent history, the physical links were comprised of smaller land routes, often through difficult terrain, and passable only by specialised trade caravans.

The northern ‘–stans’ of the Uzbeks, Kyrghiz, Tajiks, Turcoman and Khazaks exchanged goods with distant neighbours in Afghanistan and northern India, and, depending upon varying political arrangements, the even more distant powers of South Asia, Persia, Byzantium, Russia and China.

The exhibition will briefly examine the political upheavals that destroyed the lives of these communities and their nomadic, semi-nomadic and settled lifestyles.

For more information, visit the website of the Brunei Gallery, London, UK.

Exhibition: Sewing Paradise – A Sisterhood Through Suzani

Irma Stern Museum - Sewing Paradise

Exhibition dates: 2–30 July 2016

Sewing Paradise, on show at the University of Cape Town’s Irma Stern Museum, is a celebration of the contribution women make to the world through their creative talents. The show will feature Manina Baumann’s magnificent collection of hand-embroidered Uzbek suzanis as well as art works that have been created in response to these Central Asian textiles. Curated by Michael Chandler, the all-female exhibition aims to explore the notion of the inner-garden; a timeless metaphor for a state of ideal beauty and harmony. Exhibiting local and international artists, the show will also feature lesser-known works by Irma Stern, who herself was an ardent textile enthusiast and collector.

For more information, visit the website of the Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town, South Africa.

Event: A Show and Tell of Tribal and Village Weavings from Iran and Central Asia

Legge Carpets webpage

Event date: Monday 18 July 2016

Oxford Asian Textile Group have organised a show and tell evening in Oxford with Angela and Christopher Legge of tribal and village weavings from Iran and Central Asia. There are 15 places available for this event. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to oatg.events@gmail.com to confirm your place.

Location: Legge Carpets & Textiles, 25 Oakthorpe Road, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7BD.
Time: Arrival from 7.15pm to start at 7.30pm.
Free for members, £3 for non-members.

For more information about Legge Carpets, please visit their website.

Textile Tidbits: South to the Great Steppe – The Travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan, 1847–52

Nick Fielding - Atkinson book - Sultan Souk and family

For today’s Textile Tidbit, I wanted to share with you some news about OATG member Nick Fielding’s new book. South to the Great Steppe, about the English explorers Thomas and Lucy Atkinson was, in part at least, inspired by his interest in Central Asian textiles. He says:

“It was while trying to work out the various population movements in Central Asia that I first came across the Atkinsons. That led me to Thomas’ book Oriental and Western Siberia, which contains many interesting descriptions of Steppe nomads and their clothing. Thomas was also a very accomplished artist and his watercolours show their costumes to great effect. I realised that the Atkinsons had been almost forgotten and decided to find out more about them. That eventually led to the publication of the book, as well as taking me on many fascinating journeys to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Siberia.”

Nick says he has now started on a second book on the Atkinsons, this one covering all their travels, including in Eastern Siberia. In total the intrepid couple travelled more than 40,000 miles, much of it on horseback, during almost seven years of travel. Lucy also gave birth to their son in what is now eastern Kazakhstan. This summer Nick will take a group of ten of the Atkinson descendants to this region to visit the place where their ancestor was born and to see other sites associated with the couple.

South to the Great Steppe: The Travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan, 1847–52 was published by FIRST, London, in 2015 (ISBN-13: 978-0954640996). Link to the book on Amazon here. The picture above is an engraving of one of Thomas Atkinson’s paintings from his book.

Event: Lecture – Change and Tradition in Soviet Central Asia

GW Textile Museum - Old Patterns- Lecture

Event date: 28 April 2016, 6pm

Textiles have been part of Central Asian identity for hundreds of years, peaking in the nineteenth century with the production of ikats that featured bold, original designs and vibrant colours. In the twentieth century, the Soviet Union came to power, bringing economic change and “modernization” to the region. Join the Textile Museum on 28 April for a lecture by expert Andrew Hale on the influence of revolutionary Russia on Central Asia’s textile and other traditions.

Hale is a collector, curator, and internationally recognised expert in the nomadic textiles and silk-weaving traditions of Central Asia, as well as the author of numerous articles and books on Central Asian art. During his talk, he will pull from his personal archive of over two thousand photographs documenting this region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This lecture explores themes from the exhibition ‘Old Patterns, New Order: Socialist Realism in Central Asia’, open until 29 May.

For more information, visit the website of the GW Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA.

Event: Turkestan Journey – Exhibition Talk

Photograph copyright Sasha Gusov

Photograph copyright Sasha Gusov

Event date: 26 April 2016, 6:45–8:30pm

To coincide with their current exhibition, ‘Turkestan Journey’ (April 19 – May 12), an exhibition of a collection of jewellery and textiles from Central Asia, Asia House in London are hosting a talk and discussion. This will look at the development and understanding of cultural identity from the region and examine the cumulative and cultural experience gathered by artisan jewellery makers throughout their rich and varied history.

The talk will be co-presented by Galina Shlepyanov who will speak on jewellery-wearing traditions in Central Asia, and Alima Nazarbayeva, a graduate from London’s Courtauld Institute, who will speak specifically about Kazakh jewellery.

Admission to the talk is free, but booking is essential.

For more information, and to book a place at this talk, visit the website of Asia House, London.

Exhibition: Turkestan Journey

Asia House - Turkestan Journey

Exhibition dates: 19 April – 12 May 2016

Turkestan Journey is an exhibition of traditional jewellery and textiles from Central Asia, dating from the nineteenth to the early twentieth century, from the collection of Almaly Company from Kazakhstan.

The collection was started just twenty years ago and encompasses the works of craftsmen from Western Kazakhstan, who embodied the very finest traditions of national jewellery making and art, as well as accessories from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Karakalpak area and Kyrgyzstan. It also includes elaborately embroidered robes from Bukhara and national costumes from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan regions as well as filigree belts from Crimean Tatars.

This jewellery differs significantly from region to region with each tribe having its own ornament and chosen semi-precious stones. For instance, jewellery from Khorezm may be distinguished by its carnelians and large round corals inset within pendants and necklaces. Turquoise, pearls and mother-of-pearl were beloved stones of the jewellery-makers of Khorezm and Bukhara.

The exquisite items selected for this exhibition (almost 60) represent all types of ornaments worn in this part of the world during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The full and amazing diversity of Central Asia is laid bare here: from the richly decorated head bands of Uzbekistan and large silver gilt heart-shaped hair ornaments of Turkmenistan to the richly patinated and time-worn stylish silver Kazakh rings.

This private collection, comprising more than one thousand different types of jewellery and textiles from Central Asia, is of great importance to the development and understanding of cultural identity. Not only is it vivid evidence of the preservation of valuable museum pieces, but also a chance to see the cumulative and cultural experience gathered by the artisan jewellery-makers of the region throughout their rich and varied history.

A talk to accompany this exhibition will take place at Asia House on 26 April. The evening talk is free to attend but booking is essential.

For more information, please visit the website of Asia House, London.